Jade Wong’s father always encouraged her to read and write.
As a child, she loved telling stories and her dad loved to hear them.
And when Wong was a teenager, he would tell her to submit her entries into publishing companies “but I never did that.”
At SFU, the Riverside secondary graduate chose to major in business administration over English literature — “something I always wanted to do” — and later turned to a career in real estate.
Last year, when the world ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Port Coquitlam resident found herself with a lot of time on her hands.
Last May, seeing a call for submissions for the city and Terry Fox Library’s Flash Fiction Contest, Wong fired up her computer and created a short story to meet the guidelines: It had to be, or contain, an adventure; be set in Port Coquitlam; include the word “seed”; and be no longer than 750 words in length.
In one go, Wong penned The Seed of Happiness, a story inspired by her young neighbour Samko who adored Wong’s dog.
At the time, Samko and his family were about to move to Maple Ridge and Wong wanted to leave a memory of Port Coquitlam for him.
Her tale, which won the grand prize, tells of a four-year-old boy named Samuel whose mother buys seeds to plant at the community garden; some of the sunflower seeds end up in a small field close to Gates Park.
“I wanted the story to be playful, young and vibrant — just like Samko,” Wong, 26, told the Tri-City News.
Last Saturday, as part of the May Days celebration, the city virtually launched the Donald Storywalk that, when installed next month, will include Wong’s award-winning words on eight panels along the downtown path (from Elks Park to Wilson Avenue).
The panels also feature colourful illustrations by Wen Wen “Cherry” Lu, the city’s Lions Park artist-in-residence last year.
The Burnaby resident told the Tri-City News that she focused on one strong image for each panel to create her ink drawings. “I was really interested in the pattern of the cycle that [Jade] wrote about,” Lu said.
Lu was also impressed that the city added an audio component for passersby to listen through a QR code or via portcoquitlam.ca/storywalk.
Having her art along an outdoor space “is a beautiful idea especially during the pandemic,” Lu said.
Wong, a former Tri-City News carrier who now works for the RE/MAX Sabre Realty Group, said she, too, is excited to share her story.
“There’s a lot of pride in writing this story because it’s about my hometown,” she said, adding, “It’s kind of a surreal experience [having the story in a public place] because I love to read and write, and I never thought it would become anything.”
Now, she thinks back to the early encouragement of her father, who is in the late stages of Parkinson’s disease. “I cannot wait for my dad to see this,” Wong said. “It’ll be really special to be with him and take a look. I hope other people will feel the same way: It’s a little bit of joy.”